Last week I jumped in and presented my research for the first time, speaking twice at the International Water Resources Association’s XVth World Water Congress 2015 in Edinburgh.
In a special session organised by the London Water Research Group and the University of East Anglia, “Levelling players and context: Re-examining policy for transboundary water allocation and governance”, I addressed the utility of international water law as a mechanism for addressing power asymmetries between states.
Drawing from my MSc dissertation research, I proposed that international water law can both further and counter power asymmetries, depending on how it is used. I suggested that the ‘claim/counter claim culture’ of substantive principles (such as equitable and reasonable use of water resources) often leads to powerful states dominating, thus reinforcing power asymmetries. On the other hand, procedural rules allow for a more effective avenue to challenge power asymmetries, due to their static and unambiguous nature regarding state obligations. I pointed out that power asymmetries often materialise and develop through continuing systemic processes. Thus, counter-hegemonic strategies must not merely focus on unequal outcomes and the status quo, as the status quo is constantly changing. Procedural rules provide opportunities to challenge systemic processes as they happen, thus offering a counter-hegemonic tool for power asymmetries ‘in action’. I concluded that the way international water law is used is key to challenging power asymmetries and levelling the playing field, not merely the existence of international water law itself.
I also delivered a presentation entitled, “From Water to Land: Hope for the West Bank through International Water Law“ for the session, “Water Law: Water governance, law and human rights”. This leads from my research conducted in Palestine, which will soon be produced as a working paper.